Egypt, Ptolemaic Period, ca. 332 to 30 BCE. A large and exceptionally rare mold-formed ushabti made from faience and covered in a wine-hued purple glaze. The figure stands in mummiform with fused legs atop an integral rectangular plinth, holds the symbolic pick and hoe in arms crossed atop the chest, and has a small seed bag draped over the left shoulder. The charming visage is composed of almond-shaped eyes with elongated canthi, a broad nose above full lips, cupped ears, and a plaited false beard, all beneath the striated tripartite wig. Nine lines of inscribed hieroglyphic text wrap around the legs and front of the body, though a few characters above the topmost line are perhaps associated with the name. Though untranslated, the inscription would provide the name and title of the deceased along with an invocation from Chapter 6 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (or Book of Going Forth by Day). Size: 2.2" W x 8.4" H (5.6 cm x 21.3 cm); 9.4" H (23.9 cm) on included custom stand.
Ushabti were placed in tombs as grave goods, created to do manual labor for the deceased in the afterlife. As a result, they are frequently depicted with arms crossed, holding hoes and baskets. By the Third Intermediate period, this practice had become so necessary and elaborate that some tombs contained one worker for every day of the year and thirty-six overseers, each responsible for ten laborers. Workers like this one are from that period of enormous proliferation, and are some of our best surviving insights into ancient Egyptian funerary practices.
Provenance: ex-private Arizona, USA collection, acquired in the 1980s
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Small area of repair to back pillar, with stabilization to some fissures, and with small chips and light adhesive residue along break lines. Minor abrasions and nicks to base, legs, body, and head, with softening to finer details and inscribed hieroglyphic text, and fading to original glaze pigmentation. Nice earthen deposits throughout.